Philippines, which was hit by one of the worst typhoons – the Yolanda – in November 2013, has now started a massive effort to revive mangrove forests. It is reported that this country has lost over 50 per cent of its mangroves since 1918.
It has now taken up a programme with an investment of over twenty million US Dollars under which it is promoting mangrove replanting, developing greenbelts of mangrove and beach forests as natural protection against storms. India too has been investing in mangrove restoration.
However, the effort seems to be lacking the required urgency. To restore Mangrove Ecosystems, one needs to understand the real causes of their destruction. In 2010, a report of the Global Marine Species Assessment (GMSA) revealed that the shrimp industry accounted for almost 38 per cent of the destruction of mangrove forests globally. It reported that at least 26 per cent of global mangrove forests have been cleared for fuel wood and timber production.
In India, as per this report, 40% of the country’s mangroves have already been converted to agricultural land or lost to urban sprawl. In fact, this report apprehended a faster rate of destruction of the mangroves in the coming days and said that at the current rate, mangroves may vanish by the end of this century as against the 100 years estimated in the UNEP report.
The loss rate of mangroves has accelerated since the 1980s and the future looks really grim. Roads, infrastructure, tourism industry, ports and embankment walls have come up at a massive rate in the last few decades. The pace of such ‘mangrove destructive development’ is going to be faster in coming years leading thereby causing direct destruction through deforestation as well as indirect destruction of mangroves through pollution.
The UNEP report suggest some measures for restoration of mangroves and their protection – both through direct field action and policy intervention and is hopeful that time is still there to turn the tide and avert the considerable ecological, social and economic costs now, and in the future. I would say, we need to act now or perish as cyclones and storms increase in their frequency and intensity.